Sports and Ireland go together like peas and carrots, Adam and Eve, and a horse and carriage. You can always tell what a nation values just by looking at how the people who are from that country spend their time. If you dropped yourself into an Irish village on any given Sunday, you’d likely find that a not-insignificant percentage of the population is engrossed in a sporting event, either by watching it in person or on television or by actively participating in the sport themselves.
There are countless sports with a passionate following in Ireland, but which are the biggest? We take a look below.
Horse racing is a global sport, but many would argue that its spiritual home is in Ireland. This is a sport, after all, that has been part of Irish culture for nearly 2000 years; there are records of a variation of horse racing that dates back to 60 AD. No-one has a love affair with horses quite like the Irish.
The country is home to many iconic racecourses that are well worth a visit, including Leopardstown, Laytown, and Curragh. If you’re a newcomer looking to get a sample of Ireland’s passion for horse racing, then book yourself tickets for one of the four races that make up the Irish classics (the Irish Oaks, Irish Derby, Irish 2000 Guineas, and Irish 1000 Guineas).
You’ll find the atmosphere of the event is exciting enough, but the racing is the real draw, so it’ll be worthwhile reading up on some expert horse racing tips before attending so you know which horses to follow on the track.
Any country that can count some of the world’s best golfers as its own must be passionate. Golf, after all, is arguably the most difficult sport out there, and the competition to be the very best is extremely tough. What’s impressive about Ireland’s contribution to the golfing world is that it’s so out of proportion with the size of the country. How can an island that has around 7 million people have so many Major winners? It doesn’t make sense, until you look at the history of the sport in Ireland.
There are more than 300 golf courses to be found in Ireland, including some of the world’s very best. It was on these courses that the talents of Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, et al were developed.
Should it come as any surprise that soccer is so popular in Ireland? It’s the most popular sport in the world for a reason! Ireland’s interest in the sport isn’t just academic, however. The national side, while failing to win any major international tournaments, always put up a great fight — and if there’s anything that the Irish people love, it’s spirit. The youth teams are also very active.
The love affair that the Irish have with soccer will also be influenced by the many excellent footballers that the island has produced over the years. Roy Keane, Robbie Keane, and, of course, the incomparable George Best (among others) have all ensured that Ireland’s reputation as a soccer powerhouse extends to all corners of the globe.
So what’s the number one sport in Ireland? It is, quite wonderfully, the Gaelic Games, which shows that there’s real interest in preserving the Irish way of life. Of course, it’s not just out of sentiment that people tune in or play Gaelic football, hurling, handball, and camogie. These are entertaining sports that always draw a big crowd because of the quality of the talents on display.
There is most definitely a historical aspect to the popularity, however — hurling dates back thousands of years, and who isn’t intrigued by a sport that has been around for such a long time?
And there we have it, the most popular sports in Ireland, though we should give a hat-tip to rugby, volleyball, boxing, and cricket, all of which have a strong following in Ireland.